Boss Lady

Is fear of public speaking hurting your career?


Jerry Seinfeld once joked that people would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy at a funeral – it’s sad but true.

Over my career, I have found a staggering number of women, in particular, who said they had lost income because they don’t promote themselves or their services effectively enough when speaking to groups or audiences.

Many believe they had lost promotions or business opportunities due to the fear factor associated with public speaking.

This is particularly pertinent to women who have started businesses or are returning to theworkforce after maternity leave.

Speaking in front of groups terrifies most people and the stress can be debilitating, but at some point in our professional lives to stand up in front of others and deliver a team update, an information session or business pitch, effective public speaking is a must-have skill.

Research suggests that as many as 75 per cent of people fear speaking in front of a group, and according to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears, fear of public speaking or FOPS, as I like to refer to it as, is number one.

The cost of this to individuals and organisations is enormous.

The good news is you can overcome your fear and own that boardroom presentation and deliver a killer keynote address or private function speech.

Follow this five step plan for fearless speaking and you’ll be well on your way.

  • Dissolving Fear: Use strategies to dissolve fear and increase confidence
  • Absolute Clarity: Know what your audience needs to do, think or feel after your presentation
  • Effortless Connection: Establish rapport and credibility by knowing how to connect
  • Going with the Flow: Manage any situation, surprise or challenge that arises
  • Feedback Looping: Use a simple feedback system to improve every presentation

It’s important to keep in mind that times have changed and it is no longer good enough to just know what to do with your hands, roughly structure a presentation and use eye contact. Basic cookie-cutter presentation skills are no longer effective.

People have less tolerance for rhetoric, hype and slick talkers. They want and need to trust the presenter, so you need to be authentic, clear and transparent.

Just remember it is OK to make mistakes, admit to failure because your audience will relate to imperfection and how you recover from any setbacks during your presentation.

The last and most important point is to be the same person you are on-stage as you are off it.

About Justine Armstrong

Justine Armstrong is a psychologist and educator. She has been designing and facilitating training on personal and professional development including presentation skills over the past 25 years, throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific. For more information please visit

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